The authorities are working with retailers to prevent a scam in which consumers are cajoled to buy gift cards to pay fake tax debts.
Australian Taxation Office assistant commissioner Kath Anderson said the ATO has asked major retailers to place warnings at the point of sale for pre-paid gift cards.
The ATO is also providing information to retail staff so they can provide advice to at-risk customers, according to Ms Anderson.
“We are particularly concerned that vulnerable Australians who have little interaction with us are not only being led to believe that this is a legitimate request of payment from the ATO, but that they are also giving out personal information,” she said.
Ms Anderson said the most common scams reported to the ATO include:
- Phone calls demanding demanding payment for a fake tax debt
- Emails requesting personal identifying information
- Emails asking for a fee to release a refund
Ms Anderson said that if someone gets a hold of your personal information, it can be used to impersonate you and engage in fraudulent activity.
She warned people to be wary of emails, phone calls and SMS during tax time that claim to be from the ATO, even if they seem legitimate.
“These scammers use sophisticated techniques to get your money or data and can often use a variety of techniques such as ‘spoofing’ telephone numbers and replicating our branding in emails to try and legitimise the interaction,” she said.
Identity security tips from the ATO
Here, in the ATO’s words, are five steps people can take to protect their family and friends from identity crimes.
Know what to protect
Personal information that could be used by scammers to impersonate someone can include their full name, date of birth, current address, bank account numbers, credit card details, tax file number, driver’s licence or passport details, and any passwords.
Remind them to keep their personal information safe and secure
If personal information is stolen it can be very difficult to get back. It’s best to store things like a tax file number or birth certificate somewhere safe and secure – for example, don’t carry it around in a wallet or handbag or saved on a phone.
Warn them if they share too much on social media
Scammers can use information published on social networking sites to steal identities. If you see someone sharing personal information online, remind them that they could be putting themselves at risk of targeted attacks. It’s also a good idea to make sure profiles are set to private, and to be cautious about which friend requests to accept.
Be suspicious of requests for personal information
If you notice that your family and friends have received a request for their personal information, tell them to treat the request with caution. Scammers can be believable and will sometimes quote personal information to sound authentic, so if you hear that someone is asking for personal information, consider the possibility that it may be a scam. To check if a call, email, SMS is from the ATO, call us on 1800 008 540 to confirm.
Know legitimate ways to make payments
Scammers may use threatening tactics to trick their victims into paying false debts in pre-paid gift cards or by sending money to non-ATO bank accounts. To check that a payment method is legitimate, we have a list which can found on our website that outlines methods when dealing with us.